Diary of a Fantasy Madman
Thanksgiving Leftovers PDF Print E-mail
Diary of a Fantasy Madman
Written by Zach Steinhorn   
Sunday, 29 November 2015 00:00

We're done with mock drafting.

Until 2016, that is. The 12-team, 10-round Fantasy 411 Slow Mock reached its conclusion yesterday with Rotowire's Derek Van Riper selecting Jonathan Lucroy. And with this pick, I crossed Lucroy's name off my list of potential players to discuss in this article. That's because this article will not be about the 120 players who were drafted. Instead, let's focus on the players who remain on the board. More specifically, let's look at a handful of players who remain on the board but shouldn't still be on the board, at least according to preliminary rankings on several sites. Why were our mock drafters hesitant to take these guys?

Jose Reyes - I was tempted to draft Reyes in the 8th round. I was even more tempted to draft him in the 9th. I almost drafted him in the 10th. But aside from the suspension possibility, it just didn't feel right. In 47 games with the Rockies last season, Reyes batted .259 with three homers and an underwhelming 21 runs scored. I expected better from a former All-Star who would now be calling Coors Field home. The eight steals were nice, and a fully healthy 2016 season could result in 30 swipes. But since when was Reyes a safe bet to stay healthy? I'm curious to see how the market values Reyes in the coming months, especially if he ends up avoiding a suspension. Although he is probably a top-100 player, I wasn't particularly excited about adding him to my roster. As it turned out, the other 11 owners felt the same way.

Adam Wainwright - Expect Wainwright's draft stock to steadily rise going forward. After missing five months due to injury last season, the Cardinals righty pitched well out of the bullpen down the stretch. Wainwright will head back into the starting rotation in 2016, and considering his established track record, a return to ace form is within reach. The best part is that you won't need to pay ace price to draft him.

Evan Longoria - Remember when Longoria was a first-rounder? He's still useful in fantasy, but a true difference maker? Not quite. Outside of his injury-plagued 2012 campaign, the Rays third baseman is coming off a season in which he posted career-lows in home runs (21) and RBI (73). I guess I shouldn't be surprised that he lasted beyond the top-120, but it sure is strange.

Michael Wacha - This is a case where I don't understand why Wacha is being ranked so high (#75 overall on a recent ESPN list). Yeah, he's only 24 and is fresh off a solid and injury-free season. But a 7.6 K/9 is nothing special, and after pitching to a 2.93 ERA and 1.10 WHIP in the first half, Wacha registered a 4.01 ERA and 1.38 WHIP following the All-Star break. I need to see better consistency before I can comfortably draft him as my SP2 in a 12-team mixed league.

Brian McCann - Being that the catcher pool is rather thin this year, I like the idea of drafting McCann within the top-120, and maybe even the top-100. If we continued this mock beyond the 10 rounds, he would not have been available for much longer. McCann's 26 homers last season led all catchers while his 94 RBI ranked second behind only Buster Posey. Unfortunately for his fantasy owners, all of that offensive production came along with a .232 average, and McCann has now batted below .235 in three of the last four seasons. But at the catcher position, I'd be willing to sacrifice batting average for power, especially when we're talking about a catcher who has strung together eight straight seasons of at least 20 home runs.

Last Updated on Sunday, 29 November 2015 09:43
Alternate Universe PDF Print E-mail
Diary of a Fantasy Madman
Written by Zach Steinhorn   
Sunday, 22 November 2015 00:00

I do it, you do it, we all do it. After all, it's only human nature to second guess our draft day decisions. And the whole thing is kind of ridiculous because the second guessing takes place after the fact, as in "If I knew Pitcher X would be available in the seventh round, I would've taken a hitter in the fourth round rather than Pitcher Y and paired that hitter with Pitcher X." Sounds great, but the reality is that we never know, so this line of thinking is clearly flawed. The problem is that I still fall into this trap sometimes. After all, it is only human nature. But wishing for a trip back in time really is a waste of time. So why not put that time to good use and actually figure out if you would've been better off taking an alternate route.

So, using the 12-team Fantasy 411 Slow Mock (still in progress) as the example, here are a couple of picks I made that I might have not made had I known the future draft results.

Jose Abreu (Round 2, Pick 11): I do like Abreu a lot this year, and I wouldn't be the least bit surprised if he earns this draft position. But Adrian Gonzalez fell to Round 6, Pick 10, and is there really a 47-pick difference in value between these two first basemen?

Madison Bumgarner (Round 4, Pick 11): Bumgarner is about as safe as it gets at a SP position that tends to be very unpredictable from one season to the next. That said, I was pleasantly surprised to land Felix Hernandez as well, three rounds later at 7.02. I would've been plenty comfortable with King Felix as my ace.

OK, let's get to it. Below are two rosters through seven rounds. The first roster is the team I drafted while the second is the team I would have drafted had I known that Gonzalez and Hernandez would remain on the board for as long as they did. I'm calling this squad the "Optimal Team" but the question I'm curious to address is whether or not it would have been optimal. In an effort to address that question, I've included the 2016 Mastersball projections for each of these players with the full team stats at the bottom.

Actual Team

Rd 1 - Mike Trout: .298 AVG, 37 HR, 88 RBI, 114 R, 14 SB  175 587

Rd 2 - Jose Abreu: .292 AVG, 33 HR, 106 RBI, 96 R, 1 SB  180 617

Rd 3 - Ryan Braun: .275 AVG, 22 HR, 75 RBI, 80 R, 18 SB  143 520

Rd 4 - Madison Bumgarner: 16 W, 2.96 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, 227 K in 219 IP

Rd 5 - Nelson Cruz: .266 AVG, 38 HR, 86 RBI, 93 R, 4 SB  159 597

Rd 6 - Adrian Beltre: .298 AVG, 16 HR, 71 RBI, 71 R, 1 SB  152 510

Rd 7 - Felix Hernandez: 15 W, 2.95 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, 214 K in 217 IP

TOTAL: .286 AVG, 146 HR, 426 RBI, 454 R, 38 SB

31 W, 2.95 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 441 K in 436 IP

Optimal Team

Rd 1 - Mike Trout: .298 AVG, 37 HR, 88 RBI, 114 R, 14 SB  175 587

Rd 2 - Ryan Braun: .275 AVG, 22 HR, 75 RBI, 80 R, 18 SB  143 520

Rd 3 - Dee Gordon: .286 AVG, 3 HR, 44 RBI, 83 R, 60 SB  179 625

Rd 4 - Carlos Gomez: .262 AVG, 17 HR, 72 RBI, 77 R, 28 SB  142 541

Rd 5 - Adrian Gonzalez: .293 AVG, 28 HR, 96 RBI, 90 R, 1 SB  169 576

Rd 6 - Adrian Beltre: .298 AVG, 16 HR, 71 RBI, 71 R, 1 SB  152 510

Rd 7 - Felix Hernandez: 15 W, 2.95 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, 214 K in 217 IP

TOTAL: .286 AVG, 123 HR, 446 RBI, 515 R, 122 SB

15 W, 2.95 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, 214 K in 217 IP

Of course, the Optimal Team consists of one more hitter than the Actual Team, so accurately comparing the counting stats is tough. But the ratio stats (AVG, ERA, WHIP) came out to be virtually identical, and despite having one fewer hitter, the Actual Team beat out the Optimal Team in homers while falling just short in the RBI category. The SB competition is a runaway in favor of the Optimal Team but I always prioritize power over speed in drafts, as steals are easier to find on the waiver wire during the season than home runs. And unlike in past years, I'm warming up to the idea of drafting two high-end starting pitchers and securing 400-plus strikeouts to go along with the excellent ERA and WHIP.

The verdict? As it turns out, the Optimal Team isn't optimal. I'll side with the Actual Team and my days of second guessing are over.

Until my next draft.

Last Updated on Sunday, 22 November 2015 01:54
Valuation Variations PDF Print E-mail
Diary of a Fantasy Madman
Written by Zach Steinhorn   
Sunday, 15 November 2015 00:00

To be honest, I'm not quite ready to fully immerse myself in fantasy baseball draft preparation. The six-month grind, especially in ultra-competitive industry leagues like Tout Wars, takes its toll, so getting away for awhile can be refreshing. But now the mock draft season is in full swing, and although I try not to take these mocks too seriously, they do force you to start analyzing the player pool, and that's a good thing. Soon enough, I'm ready.

I have participated in two mocks so far, one of which will be published in The Fantasy Baseball Guide 2016 Professional Edition. The other one is a 10-round mini-mock, still in progress, that I organize every year for When reviewing mock draft results, one thing I like to do is compare the drafts and identify the players whose draft position varies the most. These are the players who I will need to think about the most. The market has yet to reach a consensus on the value of these guys, and there's no telling when or if a consensus will be reached. This means that I will need to be especially prepared when the time comes to assign them my own dollar or round value.

On that note, here are several players who fit this description.

J.D. Martinez

Fantasy Guide mock: #42 overall mock: #22 overall

I had my doubts about Martinez coming off his 2014 breakout campaign, but he took his game to a whole new level in 2015, finishing with 38 homers, 102 RBI and 93 runs scored. I don't have many doubts about J.D. this time around, though 22nd overall seems a bit aggressive. I'd still rather have...

cruz_nelsonNelson Cruz

Fantasy Guide mock: #26 overall mock: Not yet drafted

Much like Martinez, Cruz followed up a career-best season with an even better all-around showing last year, as he posted career-bests in home runs (44) and runs (90) while registering his highest batting average (.302) since 2010. I was fortunate enough to draft Cruz in 2014 in Mixed Auction Tout Wars for the cool price of $10. This year, however, I ultimately decided to take a "quit while you're ahead" approach in anticipation of a significant price hike. As it turned out, the price hike wasn't significant ($14). Clearly, I wasn't the only one who was skeptical. I won't make the same mistake in 2016. Interestingly enough, the mock suggests that the skepticism hasn't gone away. We're now more than 40 picks into the proceedings and Cruz is still on the board.

Lorenzo Cain

Fantasy Guide mock: #58 overall mock: #30 overall

In addition to matching his 2014 stolen base total of 28, Cain launched a career-high 16 home runs last season to go along with career-bests in batting average (.307) and runs (101). I was actually the one who drafted Cain at #58 in the Fantasy Guide mock and I don't see a whole lot of downside in taking him at that spot. Whether or not he deserves a #30 pick will depend heavily on whether or not he can duplicate last season's home run total. I'd be hesitant to pay that price to find out.

Justin Upton

Fantasy Guide mock: #61 overall mock: #32 overall

At this point, Upton is who he is, not a superstar but a safe bet to hit 25 homers every year with solid production in the RBI and Runs categories. And the fact that 15 of Upton's 26 home runs last season came at pitcher-friendly Petco Park further proves that the power is legit. His owners last season were somewhat spoiled by the 19 stolen bases, and being that only two of his 19 swipes came in the second half, we need to lower our speed expectations for 2016. Regardless, #61 overall is a steal and #32 is reasonable.

Matt Carpenter

Fantasy Guide mock: #65 overall mock: #33 overall

Carpenter's 28 home runs last season really came out of nowhere, and it's not like he was a high-end contributor in batting average (.272 AVG). So, in non-OBP leagues (career .375 OBP), the only category that you can safely count on is Runs. Oh, and Carpenter is no longer 2B eligible, so if he doesn't hit at least 20 homers next year, he will be a below average power contributor at the third base position. I just don't get the appeal here, not at #65 and definitely not at #33.

Carpenter will not be a member of any of my fantasy squads in 2016.

And I don't need to do any more draft preparation to tell you that.

Last Updated on Sunday, 15 November 2015 14:54
Tout Closure PDF Print E-mail
Diary of a Fantasy Madman
Written by Zach Steinhorn   
Sunday, 11 October 2015 00:00

I need a break. As much as I enjoy fantasy baseball and playing in ultra-competitive industry leagues like Tout Wars, the six-month grind has its way of wearing me out to the point where once the postseason arrives, I look forward to watching baseball from the perspective of a baseball fan and not a fantasy owner. It really is refreshing. You should try it sometime. But first, before I temporarily turn my attention away from 5x5 categories and focus solely on team wins, I like to make a list of things to think about once I'm ready to shift to draft preparation mode. While specific details from the season are still fresh in my mind, I try to look back at those details and combine them into general themes. Not only is it helpful to keep a record of what went right and what went wrong, but the goal should always be to become a better fantasy owner, and this might require modifying draft strategy or in-season management strategy or both. So, using the 2015 Mixed Auction Tout Wars league as the model, here are some takeaways from this season.

I'm still too attached to my players

Every year, I try to change this, but I guess it's just the way I am. When I draft a certain player, I'm drafting him for a reason. I believe in him, and that's why I tend to give my drafted players a long leash should they struggle out of the gate. Sometimes this approach works out and my loyalty is rewarded, but sometimes it doesn't. Knowing when to cut ties with a drafted player, whether it be by trading him or simply releasing him, can make a huge difference in the final standings, but it's easier said than done. My early-August trade of Mike Moustakas, whom I drafted in the reserve rounds, for Rajai Davis, who seemed in line for regular at-bats following the trade of Yoenis Cespedes, looks terrible in retrospect. But when Davis wasn't getting enough playing time to make an impact in stolen bases, I replaced him in my active lineup with Francisco Lindor, a move that I never would have made if I had still owned Moustakas. As it turned out, I would have finished lower in the standings with Moustakas instead of Lindor.

I might be placing too much importance on the FAAB one-week activation rule

The Tout Wars rule that requires all players added via the FAAB process to remain in active lineups for at least the first week after acquiring them makes a lot of sense. It discourages owners from simply stashing a player on their bench if they have no intention of starting them right away. This rule was the reason why I passed on a number of tempting options, like Luis Severino, who was added by eventual champ Fred Zinkie roughly three weeks prior to his big league debut. The negative of getting one week's worth of no stats was easily outweighed by Severino's 2.89 ERA and 1.20 WHIP across 11 starts.

Maybe punting saves isn't such a bad idea after all

Derek Van Riper did it last year and won the league. Fred Zinkie decided to do it early this season and won the league. I've never been a fan of this strategy as it puts a lot of pressure on you to build an elite offense and top-tier starting rotation. But, it has now worked two years in a row and I wouldn't be surprised to see more owners adopt it in 2016. I definitely won't be one of them. Well, almost definitely.

Don't worry about coming out of the draft light in steals

Oh, I worried. I spent most of April trying to trade for steals but nothing materialized. I ended up finishing third in the category. I was fortunate that Justin Upton and Anthony Rizzo, two players who I figured would combine for around 20 steals, swiped 29 combined bags in the first half alone. But the lesson here is that speed can indeed be found on the waiver wire during the season. Billy Burns, Delino DeShields, Cameron Maybin and Ender Inciarte all ranked in the top-25 in steals this year. None of them were drafted.

Be patient with your minor league prospects

Even in a non-keeper league like Tout Wars, if you bother to draft a top prospect who isn't expected to begin the season in the Majors, stick with him. On a few occasions this year, in order to make room for an added player, I was tempted to drop Francisco Lindor. Fortunately, I ditched that idea, though it should be noted that Tout Wars expanding from four to six reserve players made that decision a lot easier. Anyway, the word on Lindor was that he was big league ready from a defensive standpoint but his bat might take some time to develop. Really? In 45 games as my starting Utility hitter, Lindor posted a .384 OBP with seven homers, 27 RBI, 25 runs scored and nine steals.

Hey, attachment can be a good thing too.


Last Updated on Sunday, 11 October 2015 08:41
The Value of Value PDF Print E-mail
Diary of a Fantasy Madman
Written by Zach Steinhorn   
Sunday, 04 October 2015 00:00

"That's a great buy" was a comment uttered numerous times inside the Mixed Auction Tout Wars draft room back in March, and while it's nice to receive compliments from your league mates, the reality is that no one really knows if a player really is a  "great buy" until the end of the season. So, as we head into the final weekend, it's time to revisit the theme of "great buys" and test the widely agreed upon theory that one of the keys to winning any fantasy baseball league is to make the best draft day buys. Here are my picks for the top- 10 buys at a price of $10 or less in this season's Mixed Auction Tout Wars league. Note that I have limited the pool to players that remained on the same owner's roster from start to finish. This way, we can get a better idea as to the impact the player made on the owner's final place in the standings.

1. A.J. Pollock ($9 to Cory Schwartz) - A popular breakout pick, sure. But even the most optimistic of Pollock supporters could not have predicted a top-10 finish in runs, steals and batting average.

2. Chris Archer ($10 to Zach Steinhorn) - He's faded in the second half and September has been especially rough. But seriously, how could I complain about what I've gotten from Archer this year?

3. Andrew Miller ($2 to Tim Heaney) - Entered the season as the likely eighth inning man for the Yankees. Finishing the season as a top-5 closer.

4. Francisco Liriano ($5 to Tim Heaney) - The oft-injured southpaw has recorded his highest innings pitched total since 2010. And then there's the career-high 205 strikeouts.

5. Kendrys Morales ($3 to Zach Steinhorn) - My plan was to nominate Morales for $3 and pull out of the bidding once it got to $10. Instead, I was pleasantly surprised to hear crickets. I expected a bounce back season, but I'd be lying if I told you I expected what I got.

6. Carlos Martinez ($1 to Patrick Davitt) - Has emerged as one of the top young arms in the NL, though his shoulder strain needs to be monitored during the off-season and into spring training.

7. Noah Syndergaard ($0 to Patrick Davitt) - Struggled at times but dominated more times than not. All in all, a pretty good first 24 big league starts, don't you think?

8. John Lackey ($5 to Patrick Davitt) - Continues to be one of the most overlooked yet reliable starting pitchers in the game. At the age of 36, his 2.69 ERA marks a career-best.

9. Danny Salazar ($3 to Scott Swanay) - Aside from a mediocre 4.76 ERA and 1.45 WHIP in September, there aren't a whole lot of negative things we can say about this guy. He could emerge as a fantasy ace as soon as next season.

10. Josh Reddick ($1 to Zach Steinhorn) - I strongly considered both Ken Giles ($6) and Scott Kazmir ($5) for this spot, but ultimately, Reddick's $1 price tag made the difference. I really had no expectations for the A's right fielder when I purchased him in the endgame. Fortunately, he managed to finally stay healthy while delivering 20 homers, double-digit steals and a useful OBP. Not quite his 32-home run season of 2012, but solid nonetheless.

So, how well does the best buy theory hold up here? Fairly well. As of Saturday morning's standings, every owner who made one of these picks with the exception of Patrick Davitt ranks in the top-5. On the other hand, Davitt made three of these picks and currently sits in eighth place. But Patrick did occupy a top-3 spot for a good chunk of the season, and the pitching trio of Martinez, Syndergaard and Lackey surely had something to do with it.

Although a larger sample size would paint a clearer picture, I think it's safe to say that all of us should continue to strive for those "great buys."


Last Updated on Sunday, 04 October 2015 08:48
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